Deston Garrett would have graduated from high school on Monday. Instead, his family and friends attended a candlelight vigil to honor the 19-year-old who died Saturday from gunshot wounds.
Sacramento County sheriff’s officials said Garrett, 19, had been shot Thursday a little before 9 p.m. at his residence on the 3900 block of 45th Street. He was taken by private vehicle to a hospital that night and died there at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The wide receiver known as “Nutter” played football for Sacramento Charter High School for four years. He made it onto the varsity team as a sophomore wearing the number 21. Coaches for the team described Garrett as a dedicated player who always had high energy both on and off the field.
On Sunday night, about 500 people, some with purple balloons and vases filled with lavender, gathered on the football field of Sacramento Charter High to honor Garrett. There weren’t enough chairs for everyone, so most stood in a circle around a podium listening to speeches and songs.
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His family wept in the front row, and his teammates held one another and patted each other on the back as they cried.
Before the vigil, the football team sat together on the grass with their coaches. Team members said they would never forget Garrett. “Every time I lace up my shoes, I’m doing it for him,” Elijah Trosair said.
“He was the kindest, most gentle person,” said Nancy Bettencourt, grandmother of Garrett’s girlfriend, Tiara Belveal. “There wasn’t a time he didn’t give you a hug or a thank you.”
Varsity football coach Justin Reber said Garrett intended to enroll at Sacramento City College in the fall and play on the football team.
Reber, who took over as coach in 2015, said that Garrett was well known in the community and always willing to help his teammates both on and off the field.
“He was one of the most charismatic kids on our team,” Reber said. “He was a lifeline for all of the players.”
Garrett, the youngest of four brothers, was involved with sports since he was young, said Garrett’s cousin, Laron Ellis, 24. Garrett’s father encouraged all of his sons to get involved in athletics, he said.
“He was a good football player, and he was going places. That was the main thing,” Ellis said. “When he came to family functions, he was cool. He loved his family.”
Garrett was scheduled to graduate Monday during a commencement for Hiram Johnson High School, according to Sacramento City Unified spokesman Gabe Ross. Though he spent most of his high school career at Sacramento Charter High School, Garrett was attending Accelerated Academy this past semester to complete his credits toward graduation.
On Saturday, Derrell Roberts of the Roberts Family Development Center posted on Facebook that about 100 people gathered outside UC Davis Medical Center that afternoon to grieve after hearing of Garrett’s death.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives have taken over the investigation, according to a press statement. The agency asks anyone with tips to contact the department at 916-874-5115 or call Crime Alert at 916-443-HELP.
Tips may also be left anonymously at www.sacsheriff.com, by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and entering the keyword “SSD,” or by calling 916-874-TIPS (8477).
Editor’s note (June 13): This story has been updated to explain that Garrett was scheduled to graduate Monday during ceremonies for Hiram Johnson High School, not Sacramento Charter High School.